Congress Gives America's Endangered Battlefields a Major Boost in Federal Funding Bill
(Washington, D.C.) — The American Battlefield Trust today applauded passage of FY2020 Appropriations legislation by the House and Senate this week, as the measure awaits the signature by the President. This annual federal funding bill includes $18 million in federal funds for battlefield preservation, along with a new grants program to restore, rehabilitate and interpret these hallowed battlegrounds.
“This is a banner day for all those who care about American history,” said Trust president James Lighthizer. “Not only does this legislation provide for critical battlefield land acquisition grants, it creates matching funds for their restoration and interpretation of these historic landscapes. Perhaps most important, its passage and enactment demonstrate continued bipartisan support in Congress for protection of these national treasures. I am deeply thankful for the many legislators whose strong support made its passage possible this holiday season.”
Included in the law is the largest-ever appropriation — $13 million in FY2020 — to the American Battlefield Preservation Program’s Battlefield Land Acquisition Grant Program, a matching grants program administered through the National Park Service that encourages private sector investment in historic battlefield protection. Since the program was first funded by Congress in FY1999, it has been used to preserve more than 32,000 acres of battlefield land in 20 states, including land associated with some of the most famous engagements in American history. The legislation further includes nearly $5 million for use by the National Park Service to acquire inholding parcels for incorporation into battlefield parks, notably at Virginia’s Petersburg National Battlefield and North Carolina’s Guilford Courthouse National Military Park.
In addition to the funding packages for next fiscal year for Interior and other federal departments, the so-called “minibus” bill passed by Congress also included the Preserving America’s Battlefields Act (HR 307; S. 225), which reauthorizes the Battlefield Land Acquisition Grants Program through FY 2028 at $18 million annually – a recognition of the tremendous successes achieved through this public-private partnership. A truly bipartisan bill, it acquired 101 co-sponsors — 51 Democrats and 50 Republicans — in the House of Representatives and seventeen cosponsors in the Senate. Moreover, for the first time, similar matching grant streams will be made available to assist in the restoration and interpretation of protected battlefield landscapes; up to $1 million will be available in each category annually.
“That this measure received such tremendous support speaks volumes about the significance that a preserved and interpreted battlefield can hold,” said Lighthizer. “They are outdoor classrooms for those who seek to learn about our past. They are memorials to the service and sacrifice of America’s military. They are pristine open space and economic engines via heritage tourism.”
The Trust thanks Senator Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Representative Jody Hice (R-Ga.) for their leadership on the Preserving America’s Battlefields Act, as well as Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair and Ranking Member Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Natural Resources Committee Chairman and Ranking Member Representatives Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Rob Bishop (R-Utah); Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.); Senate Appropriations Chair and Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Tom Udall (D-N.M); Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.); House Appropriations Committee Chair and Ranking Member Representatives Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Kay Granger (R-Texas); Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chair and Ranking Member Representatives Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) and Dave Joyce (R-Ohio); and Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), Bobby Scott (D. Va.) and Donald McEachin (D-Va.). These historic legislative achievements would not have been possible without the continued support of these members in particular.
The American Battlefield Trust is dedicated to preserving America’s hallowed battlegrounds and educating the public about what happened there and why it matters today. The nonprofit, nonpartisan organization has protected more than 52,000 acres associated with the Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and Civil War. Learn more at www.battlefields.org.